March 26, 2013

Mystery Surrounding 1700 Year Old Tunic

About 2,000 meters (6,560 ft) above sea level on what was likely a Roman-era trade route in southern Norway, a thawing glacier revealed a rare find: a pre-Viking tunic, carbon dated at around 300 CE. It was made to be used as loose fitting outer garment for a man about 176 cms (5 ft 9 inches) tall.

The tunic is made of lamb's wool that has turned greenish-brown with age. There is evidence of a diamond pattern and several patches and repairs indicating it got a lot of use. Only a handful of similar tunics have been found in Europe to date.

Interestingly, there were many other artifacts found nearby including a wooden tent peg, various textiles with decorative shells, spear tips and arrows with ingenious design and even a horse shoe!

The researchers in Oslo are baffled by the tunic. Why would anyone take off a warm tunic by a glacier 6,560 feet above sea level?

So far, the only hypothesis offered is that the owner of the tunic was suffering hypothermia, causing him to feel deceptively warm and confused, leading him to take off his tunic and toss it into the glacier.

A good start, but it is still conjecture. What other reasons could there have been?

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